Surah 39: The Groups

Here’s a weird word: زمر, zumar, from which the title of today’s surah, “The Groups,” comes. It’s not a word with strong connotations or nuances, and indeed is so different from its seeming relatives that I might suspect it of being a word borrowed from another language. Other words built from the roots z-m-r I would judge to have connotations equivalent to the English words “piping” (as in “piping hot”) or “reedy” (as in reedy voice). It’s a root primarily about flutey-screechy sounds and things. It doesn’t get used in the Quran beyond this chapter –a distinction that makes it fit for a title by Quranic standards– and doesn’t even have any relatives present in the concordinance. The zumar, “groups,” of today’s surah have nothing to do with high-pitched, screechy things or musical instruments, but are by all context and intentions the two opposite groups of believers and unbelievers, entering their respective afterlives in successive waves.

Yes, it’s another surah about there being only two kinds of people in the world and their fates in the hereafter. It’s 75 ayat, take a read.

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